Prefrontal dysfunction in first-degree relatives of schizophrenia patients during a stroop task

Theresa M. Becker, John G. Kerns, Angus W. MacDonald, Cameron S. Carter

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    49 Scopus citations


    Schizophrenia patients perform poorly on cognitive control tasks and exhibit dysfunction in anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) during task performance. The unaffected relatives of patients with schizophrenia also exhibit poor cognitive control task performance. However, the relationship between these behavioral deficits in relatives and the integrity of ACC and DLPFC functioning is unclear. In the present study, we used the Stroop color-naming task and event-related fMRI to examine cognitive control task performance and associated neural activity in 17 unaffected relatives of schizophrenia patients and 17 demographically matched healthy controls. On the Stroop task, unaffected relatives exhibited intact post-conflict-related performance adjustments. fMRI data revealed that unaffected relatives exhibited reduced activity in DLPFC but they exhibited intact activity in ACC. These results suggest that DLPFC dysfunction may be related to the genetic risk for schizophrenia as both patients and their unaffected relatives show reduced activity in this region. In contrast, the current results suggest that ACC dysfunction in people with schizophrenia may reflect processes specific to the illness itself.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)2619-2625
    Number of pages7
    Issue number11
    StatePublished - Oct 2008

    Bibliographical note

    Funding Information:
    We thank Melissa Johnson and Ryan Walter for their help with running the study as well as the staff of the UPMC Magnetic Resonance Research Center for their help with data collection. This study was supported by National Institutes of Health (NIH) Grants MH059883 and MH066629. Data from this study were presented at the Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting, San Diego, CA, October, 2004.


    • Anterior cingulate
    • Cognitive control
    • Dorsolateral prefrontal cortex
    • Endophenotype
    • Relatives
    • Schizophrenia


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